Trevor Square Area: Social Character

Page 102

Survey of London: Volume 45, Knightsbridge. Originally published by London County Council, London, 2000.

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Social Character

The Trevor Square development was clearly designed to attract residents of moderately prosperous middle-class character, a working-class contingent being provided for by cottages on the fringes of the estate.

Early Victorian census returns show that the square was by no means solidly middle-class, some houses being occupied by artisans and other workpeople. There was a tendency for later middle-class residents to be lodgers rather than householders, and by 1861 most houses were lodginghouses or otherwise in multiple occupation. The most striking social phenomenon, redolent of lower-middleclass gentility, was the colonization of Trevor Square by the drapery trade. In 1861 the census recorded seven houses in the occupation of drapers, all of them young or youngish Scotsmen. Taking into account lodgers and assistants living with them, there were about two dozen Scottish drapers in the square in that year. Scottish drapers remained a substantial proportion of the population of the square and near by into the 1890s.

Trevor Square did not really begin to lose the ambiguous social position typical of a lodging-house district until the twentieth century, long after neighbouring Montpelier Square had begun to attract a number of fashionable or well-to-do residents. There was, however, at least one aristocrat living in the square as early as the 1890s. This was Earl Cowley, who occupied No. 1 for several years from about 1896 (shortly before his first divorce).

Ostensibly a dull street mostly of lodging-houses, Trevor Place (then Hill Street) had a moment of particular notoriety in 1886 when No. 9 was revealed as a house of illrepute in the celebrated Crawford divorce proceedings, which blighted the political career of Sir Charles Dilke. Dilke himself does not seem to have made use of the house, but it was visited by both Mrs Crawford, who claimed to have had an adulterous relationship with him, and her sister Helen (sister-in-law of the writer Frederic Harrison), to pursue their affairs with one Captain Forster. (fn. 1)


  • 1. Roy Jenkins, Sir Charles Dilke: A Victorian Tragedy, 1958, pp.316, 333–6, 340–1: David Nicholls, The Lost Prime Minister: A Life of Sir Charles Dilke, 1995, pp. 189, 192.